Dino Olivieri: J’attendrai

Written by Amy Burton


In category: Song of the Day

Published April 9, 2020

This week, I’ll be sharing a new song each day to remind you (and myself) that how we use this time at home is as varied and limitless as our collective imagination.  There’s at least one song, if not hundreds, for everything we’re experiencing in this singular moment, and it wasn’t easy to pick five!  But I hope my choices delight, inspire, move, and comfort you, as they do me. 


The Humming Chorus from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly inspired this 1937 song, originally titled, “Tornerai” (“You will Return”). Written by opera conductor and composer Dino Olivieri and lyricist Nino Rastelli, it was a modern take on the idea of lovers separated during wartime. The song (which uses only a fragment of Puccini’s melody), was an enormous hit.  

With new French lyrics by Louis Potérat, the song was refashioned as “J’attendrai” (“I will wait”), and had even more success in France than “Tornerai” did in Italy. There were several French and Belgian recordings of the song, but the one by Italian singer Rina Ketty, was the most beloved. 

After the Nazi occupation of France in 1940, “J’attendrai” came to represent for many another kind of waiting, one for the return of normal life, and for liberation.  As more countries became involved in the war, the song increased in popularity. Soon there were versions in German, Danish, Norwegian, Polish, Czech, Lithuanian, and two different ones in English. But of them all, including the original, “J’attendrai” was always the clear favorite.  

Music: Dino Olivieri (1905-1963)   
French Lyrics: Louis Potérat (1901-1982) 
Performed by Rina Ketty and Orchestre Michel Cariven

— Translation by Amy Burton and Regan Kramer
author: Amy Burton

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Amy Burton enjoys an eclectic career of opera, concert, and cabaret. She has sung with major opera companies and orchestras throughout the US and Europe, including the Metropolitan OperaNew York City Opera, Zürich Opera, L’Opéra de Nice, Scottish Opera, among many others. She has also sung at the White House. A lover of French song, Ms. Burton appears frequently with her husband, composer-pianist John Musto in recitals and cabaret. Recent concerts include New York’s Cafe Sabarsky, the National Arts Club, Wave Hill, Barcelona’s Liceu, the National Museum for Women in the Arts, Lincoln Center, and the Kennedy Center. Together they have made several recordings, including Songs of John Musto, Souvenir de Printemps, and Got a Little Rhythm for Bridge Records. A sought-after teacher, Ms. Burton is on the voice faculty at The Juilliard School, Mannes College of Music, and the CUNY Graduate Center DMA program. She also teaches, coaches and directs at SongFest at Colburn in Los Angeles. Amy Burton has been honored to perform on twenty-one NYFOS concerts, and is a proud member of the NYFOS Artists Council.

1 Comment

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    Hi. Were there any repercussions for French people if they sang, J’attendrai” during the German occupation? I understood that this song was so powerful that the Germans inflicted punishment if the caught anyone singing it – maybe this was just a baseless story, but I’d like to know if it has any truth to it. Greg.


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